weather has turned against me in the middle of clearing out my shed, so i now have no room to make any progress on my armour build, so here is the next part of "Dead Squad: Spaced"
Dead Squad: Spaced
Family is more than blood
YG-4210 freighter "Trail-breaker"
The loading ramp of the old Corellian freighter slammed down onto the dusty surface of Raxus Prime, the curved hull and extended drive section hidden beneath the shadow of the perpetual twilight among the towering piles of scrap. A figure in heavy, white Mandalorian armour stepped out of the darkness into the pool of light that poured out from inside the ships cargo hold and walked casually up the ramp, the limp form of an Ithorian draped across his shoulder, the bag it had been carrying gripped in his left hand. As he reached the top of the ramp, he hit the control panel that was mounted in the wall, and the loading ramp lifted noisily back into place, sealing the ship once more with a resonating thud and a lingering hiss as the seals locked. He shrugged exageratedly, and the unconscious alien dropped off his shoulder, falling into a heap on the hard metal floor of the cargo bay.
The Mandalorian walked across the cargo bay, passing a variety of containment pods that lined the walls, and headed towards the control panel that was mounted into the wall beside the doors. As he reached it, he tossed the bag onto a crate near the door and popped the seals on his helmet, the pressurised hiss a reassuring sound as the seal broke, and he placed it on the crate next to the bag.
The dim orange light from the overhead illuminators gently washed across his young face. He looked like any other twenty year old, but he was different. He was, in actual fact, barely ten years old, a genetically altered clone of one of the greatest Mandalorian bounty hunters to have ever lived, Jango Fett. He was cursed to wear his face for the rest of his life, but even that came at a price. The Kaminoan scientist that had created him, and the whole of the grand army of the republic, had accelerated his ageing process, and he was forced to live a half life, dying while others passed into mid life. He was born a soldier and a slave, created to serve a republic he had no stake in, and discarded as easily as a used flimsy wrapper.
Taler Galaar, ex-republic commando, RC-1133, had been left for dead and declared KIA - Killed In Action - during the battle of Geonosis. He had survived three days alone on the barren, hostile world before a Mandalorian Bounty hunter had found him there and adopted him as his own son.
He reached out for the control panel to open a channel to the bridge and stopped a few inches from the controls, his eyes flashing down towards his hand. The skin was charred and burnt around his fingertips, and an open wound across the back of his palm was seeping some green fluid, the metallic plate within exposed. It had been three weeks, and he had almost forgotten that everything below his right elbow was a cybernetic armiture covered in synthetic flesh. It was a final parting gift from the planet of Geonosis. The fight with the garbage worm had been a little tougher than he had thought.
He flexed his fingers lightly, watching the mechanism within his palm react to the signals from his brain, green fluid pumping out with each movement. The irony wasn't lost on him. He had been created to defend the republic against a droid army, and now, that technology was grafted onto his own skin.
He had been trained to deal with all sorts of situations, but his instructors had never trained them to deal with their own thoughts, especially guilt, regret, confusion, and worst of all, uncertainty. On Kamino, he had always been certain of what his life was for. He was bred to be the best fighting soldier the galaxy had ever seen, and he would serve the Jedi, wise and benevolent generals who were combat and tactical specialist who were worth at least a hundred droids. But the reality of the universe had hit him like a jump through hyperspace without inertial compensators. The Jedi were not the omnipotent beings he thought they would be, and their inadequacy had caused him to loose his brothers on a mission they should not have been used for. The anger he felt bubbled inside him, like a black hole, and as each day passed, it became more and more difficult to ignore it and push it aside.
If he ever saw another jedi, he would make them pay for what they had done to him and his squad brothers.
Clamping his eyes shut, he inhaled deeply to slow his anger driven pulse, tasting the metallic air of Raxus Prime's scrap fields still lingering against his new armour plates. It was heavier and bulkier than most Mando armour, but it suited him. He was used to heavy armour, and this felt like the best compromise, and the blood red line running vertically down the middle? Well, he just liked the colour.
He felt himself calming, the anger subsiding a little, and as he cleared his mind, he reached out and tapped the controls and heard the gentle click echo from the speaker as the link opened to the bridge.
"I'm back, buir," Taler said, leaning against the bulkhead and tilting his head towards the hidden microphone. Buir, father. It was odd to hear himself say that word, having grown up with no concept of family beyond his squad brothers. And yet, thinking back, he knew it had been something he had missed all his life, even if he had never know it. "Come on down. We have a visitor."
"Copy that," an older voice called out from the speaker. "I'll be right there." An irritated, mechanical screech erupted from the comms unit.
Taler recognised it as the high pitched utterances of the ships idiosyncratic R3 droid. It had obviously taken issue with being left alone on the bridge to do all the work again.
"Just cool your jets, will ya," the voice replied, just as much irritation in his voice as there was in the small droids squeaks. "I'll be back in a few minutes." The channel closed with a silent pop, and Taler scooped up his helmet and crossed the cargo bay, coming to a stop and leaning against a crate near the unconscious form of Straen Lok, who lay rather uncomfortably in a heap in the middle of the cargo bay. He placed his helmet down on the crate beside him and pulled out one of the DC-15s side arm pistols from it's holster on his hip. The grip held loosely in his hand, his metallic fingers wrapped around it gently, he looked down at the black metal and saw the name carved into the handle. 'Jay'. He remembered scraping his gauntlet blade into the grip, forever etching the name of his dead brothers into their guns. No matter where he went, he would always carry their names with him.
The barrel was dirty, covered in dried blood from his fight with the garbage worm. He tried to brush it off with the tips of his fingers, but it barely shifted. Turning his back on the lifeless body, he removed his glove from his left hand and began stripping down the pistol, years of repetitive training allowing him to dismantle it within seconds. The pieces were all laid out across the crate in front of him, and he reached into one of the pouches on his belt to remove his servicing kit. Taking out the bundle, he unrolled it, the cloth wrapped around cleaning fluid and a soft brush. It was one of the few things he had left from the republic. He had no possessions, only what he had been carrying when they had entered the droid factory on Geonosis. Even though it was a life he had not chosen, it was still who he was, and the few things he still had were a reminder of his brothers. He cherished them.
He picked up the barrel and busied himself cleaning Jay's pistol, longing for the day when he would find a Jedi and avenge his brothers.
The corridor to the cargo bay arced around to the left ahead of Kyr'am as he walked slowly from the bridge, the shreiking and spitting mechanical complaints of the R3 droid fading away into silence behind him. His long brown coat billowed lightly as he walked along the corridor, revealing the dark blue plates beneath, and the twin holsters with custom pistols strapped to each thigh.
His chest felt tight, and his breathing was getting a little more laboured. His age was starting to catch up with him. A man in his early fifties, he had barely reached mid life compared to most species. But a lifetime of bounty hunting was starting to take its toll on him. His joints were beginning to rub, his muscles ached more frequently, and as the rush of adrenalin that powered him through the hunt wore off, it was taking longer and longer to regain his strength. It was a good job that he had specialised in long range targets, his sniper rifle hung across his shoulder, always ready.
The frown lines that crossed his forehead were deep, and dark shadows had begun to appear beneath his gun-metal grey eyes. Flecks of grey were creeping into his jet black hair, and the few days growth of hair that clung to his chin was also showing signs of silver.
Half way down the next corridor, he stopped and turned towards the doorway that was recessed into the wall. He paused and inhaled deeply, filling his lungs and composing himself, hiding the tiredness that had crept across his face. Tapping the controls, he watched the metal door slide away into the bulkhead. He stepped through into the cargo bay and instantly saw the limp figure of their Ithorian bounty lying in a heap on the cold metal floor. His heart stopped for a moment, fearing the worst.
"Did you really have to?" He said, sighing heavily, the figure of Taler visible out of the corner of his eye.
"Don't worry," Taler replied, not looking away from his dissasemble pistol as he rubbed it gently with a rag. "He's not dead. Just needed a bit of persuading to join our little pleasure cruise is all."
"Nice," Kyr'am nodded appreciatively, a grin spreading across his face. "Did you get the bag as well?" Taler didn't reply, but merely turned and nodded towards the crate beside the door. Kyr'am turned around and saw the bag. Scooping it up, he opened the top and looked inside. A small collection of data pads rattled inside the bag, the edges scuffed, but the screens intact. Seems Taler had come through once again.
Taler was making a fine bounty hunter, and an even better son. There seemed that there was nothing he could not do, and even if he did not know something to begin with, he picked it up really quickly.
The smile suddenly vanished from Kyr'am's face as he turned back to face Taler and looked down. He saw the tears and burns in the synthetic flesh across the back of Taler's cybernetic hand, exposing the metal components beneath.
"What happened?" He said, his voice filled with concern as he stepped quickly over to Taler's side. Taler looked up at him confused for a moment, and the followed Kyr'am's eyes to his own hand.
"Oh," Taler said simply. "Nothing really. Just a bit of playful wrestling with a garbage worm." Kyr'am felt suddenly very foolish. He knew Taler could not feel pain in his hand, the mechanical armiture nothing more than a tool covered in a lifelike skin. It was merely the impulse of a father, concerned for his son.
"Animals seem to take an instant dislike to you, don't they?" Kyr'am said lightly, deciding to play it down as light hearted banter. "First that Nexu uses you like a chew toy, and then a garbage worn decided to treat you like it's own personal rodeo rider."
"I stayed on longer than most," Taler grinned. Kyr'am looked up at him and laughed, tapping him paternally on the shoulder. He really did have the right stuff to be a Mandalorian. Mandokarla.
A groggy, pained groaning interrupted Kyr'am's thoughts, and as he turned away from Taler and towards the centre of the cargo bay, he watched as the Ithorian began to stir. Having only seen him through the scope of his sniper rifle while he 'encouraged' him to follow the path they had wanted him to take, Kyr'am had not fully appreciated how ugly this particular Ithorian was.
"Maybe we should secure our friend here before he does himself a mischief?" Kyr'am suggested. He turned back to face Taler, and realised that in the few moments he had looked away, Taler had reassembled his pistol and had holstered the weapon. Years of drilling had made him fast, and there was something about it that filled Kyr'am with concern. This boy, and there was no denying it, he was still just a boy, had never been given a childhood. He had been forced to grow up far too quickly, physically because of the accelerated ageing, and mentally. He deserved some down time.
"Good point," Taler replied, wrapping up his weapon servicing kit in the oily rag with exaggerated care and slipping it gently into his belt pouch. "I'll show him to his quarters." Kyr'am watched as the young clone walked across the cargo hold, bent down as he reached the slowly squirming Ithorian, and grab him by the collar of his tunic. He dragging him unceremoniously across the deck before deactivating the force shield on one of the containment pods and tossing the groaning mass inside, the force shield shimmering back into life.
"Guess I'd better get back to the bridge," Kyr'am said. "Before Sparky has another hissing fit and ends up reprogramming the navigational array."
"How long till we rendezvous with the customer?" Taler asked, not looking away from the Ithorian. Kyr'am could see the side of his face, and watched his brow crease. There was something bothering him.
"We'll find out once we're in orbit and I can get a signal through the interference of this scrap ball," Kyr'am replied. Taler nodded slowly and crossed the cargo hold to Kyr'am's side, grabbing his T-visored helmet from the crate beside him.
"I might go and use the freshers then," Taler said simply. "If that's ok," he added, almost as though he was asking permission from a senior officer. There was almost a hint of the word 'sir' at the end, but he seemed to stop himself before he spoke it aloud. Kyr'am felt a pained stab in his heart. He didn't want Taler to see him as a officer, someone who would give him orders and expect him to follow blindly. They were a family. He put his hand on his shoulder and smiled.
"Of course it is, Tal'ika," he said warmly. "You don't have to ask." Taler smile back at him, and it really did seem genuine this time. "Meet me up on the bridge when you're done."
"Ok, buir," Taler said. Kyr'am watched him leave the cargo bay through the door and dissapear down the corridor.
The speaker mounted in the wall beside the door erupted in a storm of mechanical shrieks and screams as Sparky began complaining with renewed vigour. Kyr'am tapped the controls and activated his end of the link.
"Calm down, before you blow a gasket," he said quickly. "I'm on my way back." He closed the link before the R3 droid had a chance to retaliate, and stepped out of the cargo bay, leaving the still half-comatose Ithorian grumbling in his containment cell.
As he walked along the corridors of the ship towards the bridge, he couldn't help but smile to himself.
Buir. It felt good to be a father.